The Best Gift by Morris Fenris

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Best Gift by Morris Fenris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Emma is planning a surprise for her first Christmas with her new husband, but an unexpected emergency could put a damper on their holiday. Years of working in advertising has made Christmastime a stressful season for Julie, but this year will remind her what the season is about. These two tales are paired up in The Best Gift by author Morris Fenris.

Pretty sure it was the cover that once drew me to these short stories, as I had no idea what they’re about until I read them. They’re out-and-out Christmas tales that highlight simple holiday joys, and it was nice to read about two married couples at different stages in life. Plus, I suspect one of these stories might have a little fantasy dust sprinkled in.

I’ll admit I liked the stories better than the style they’re written in, as there’s an awkward, novice kind of feel to much of the wording. Toward the beginning, I almost felt like I was reading a summary about a story instead of the story itself, and the ending of the second one is a little abrupt.

Still, the Christmas lover in me couldn’t help but to enjoy these simple, warm, quick reads.

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These two short stories, First Christmas and A Christmas Wish, are now in a boxed set called The Miracle of Christmas.

 

Stand Your Ground by Victoria Christopher Murray

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Stand Your Ground by Victoria Christopher Murray

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Janice. The mother of Marquis, a teenaged boy who’s been shot.

Meredith. The wife of the man who shot Marquis.

Wyatt. The white man accused of shooting and killing Marquis–who was black. Was Wyatt only standing his ground, as the law permits?

Stand Your Ground by author Victoria Christopher Murray is one of those novels that’s hard for me to rate. Even though ratings generally reflect how readers feel about a book, folks still judge a book’s merit by its ratings. The measure of a reader’s feelings and the measure of a book’s merit aren’t necessarily the same.

This novel made me feel a number of emotions, including anger and sadness, as it’s indeed a tragic story, in more ways than one. I was intrigued during a few moments, but on the whole, the story didn’t surprise me. I do like how not all the characters of either race think exactly alike, none of them are perfect people, and there’s some nuance in the black community’s response to the killing.

Now, while the novel doesn’t have any words that network television would bleep out nowadays, there’s some language I don’t appreciate seeing in ChristFic. Other times the writing seems repetitive, clichéd, or keyword conscious, as if to fit in or repeat certain common phrases.

More importantly, I would’ve liked to see more purpose and dimension for some of the characters. Although I liked seeing Meredith’s perspective, she ultimately doesn’t seem pivotal to the plot. The story’s “bad guys” are like caricatures, and in the end, Wyatt’s character just didn’t make sense to me.

In all, my biggest takeaways from this read are reminders not to take prejudgments as facts and to beware of accepting “loud” perceptions without thinking critically, without searching and listening carefully, listening closely, for truth.

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Note to my blog readers: this novel contains some violence and sensual material for mature audiences.

 

A Light in the Window by Jan Karon

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

A Light in the Window by Jan Karon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Among other goings-on in the town of Mitford, Father Tim is having trouble with women. His eccentric cousin Meg, whom he happens not to know, shows up for an uninvited, indefinite stay at his house. Recently widowed Edith is hot on Father Tim’s bachelor tail. Not to mention that he’s falling for his neighbor, Cynthia, and he doesn’t know what to do about it in A Light in the Window, a novel by author Jan Karon.

Another delightful jaunt through town in this second book in the Mitford Years series. So endlessly cute and humorous. And I always appreciate a read where the author can continually surprise me. They don’t have to be big, flashy surprises, but even cleverly simple ones keep me engaged and on my toes. I like not being able to predict everything the story or a character is going to say or do next.

One stretch I enjoyed most in this novel was the small-town Christmas season. But even more than that, there’s something refreshing about a main character in his sixties who’s never been married, feeling clueless as he navigates the daunting twists and turns of romance and wonders at the untapped recesses of his own heart. I’ll admit there were a few times when Cynthia aggravated me more than Tim did, but some of their letters to each other made me ache in a (very good) way I’m not sure I’ve ached before, while reading a love story. Just…gol-lee.

When a novel can make you slap it closed and literally hug it after you’ve finished it, something definitely went right. I’m looking forward to continuing this series.

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So, if you’re new to Mitford, don’t do what I did, ‘kay? Don’t start with Book Ten. But, in case you’re curious to know what all I had to say about it…

 

Coming Home: A Very Short Story by Steven F. Freeman

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Coming Home by Steven F. Freeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Josh has been battling loneliness in the months since his former fiancée abruptly called off their wedding. Now the arrival of a mysterious package with an insistent message could take Josh around an unexpected bend in Coming Home: A Very Short Story by author Steven F. Freeman.

While I’ve got a few of his thrillers waiting in my library, this is my first time reading this author. Just needed a little tale to snack on, and I ended up enjoying this tale more than I thought I would.

Some of it is on the corny side, but not necessarily in a bad way, especially for romantic folks who appreciate feel-good reads. I like a quick and simple story that still has something “different” to it, something worth guessing about, as this one has.